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**Unfinished Tales Discussion - Disaster of the Gladden Fields
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noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 8:46am

Post #1 of 155 (3447 views)
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**Unfinished Tales Discussion - Disaster of the Gladden Fields Can't Post

Welcome to the continuing Reading Room discussion of Unfinished Tales, a collection of unfinished stories by JRR Tolkien, published posthumously (in 1980) by his son Christopher, who also added scholarly notes. It’s important to note that EVERYONE is welcome - all you need is a book and an opinion. If you have more than one (book or opinion), even better Smile. But it is absolutely NOT important to be an expert, or to have got into some mysterious inner circle of the Reading Room or whatever. It is quite the opposite to that: please feel absolutely and completely welcome to post in this discussion whether it is your thousandth post or your very first.

At this point in Unfinished Tales we arrive at additional material written about the Third Age of Middle-earth. The Gladden Fields story fills in the story of the death of Isildur, shortly after him taking the Ring from Sauron.

It is useful to place this story in Tolkien’s writing career. It was left unfinished at his death (which was in 1973). In the Introduction to Unfinished Tales Christopher Tolkien does not date it precisely, but believes it to have been written significantly later than LOTR. Tolkien Jr worked from two versions - a complete early draft, and a “good typescript” which breaks off at the point where Elendur urged Isildur to flee. “The editorial hand,’ writes Christopher Tolkien in the Introduction, “has here had little to do.” That is, while we don’t (from the Introduction anyway) get much of a sense of JRRT’s further intentions with this story, we can be sure that the story we’re reading isn’t a complex assembly and editing together of various versions, as was sometimes done in The Silmarillion.

This introductory post to the thread will be followed by a plot outline (long , and optional reading - you might not need it if you have your book handy). Then I shall post a few further threads with some starter questions to get us going. But this always feels worryingly like I’m setting some kind of test paper, which isn’t the intention at all! Feel free to discuss the points I’m raising, but also feel free to Reply to this starter post with some new question or discussion point of your own.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 8:55am

Post #2 of 155 (2924 views)
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The Disaster of the Gladden Fields - summary of the plot (optional reading!) [In reply to] Can't Post

Here is a summary of what we know about Isildur from this chapter, and the comments about him in LOTR. I thought I'd post it in case it was handy for anyone whose books are not at hand - if you don't need it, please feel free to proceed on to the discussion starter posts!

Before discussing this Tale, I thought we should recap on what we know about Isildur from earlier publications.

First, what do we already know of Isildur’s death at the Gladden Fields from The Lord of the Rings?


Quote
Gandalf: ‘But the Ring was lost. It fell into the Great River, Anduin, and vanished. For Isildur was marching north along the east banks of the River, and near the Gladden Fields he was waylaid by the Orcs of the Mountains, and almost all his folk were slain. He leaped into the waters but the Ring slipped from his finger as he swam, and then the Orcs saw him and killed him with arrows.’

Shadow of the Past, Fellowship of the Ring


...and thus the Ring is lost for a time, then comes to Smeagol/Gollum, then on to Bilbo and Frodo.

A few more details are added in The Council of Elrond:


Quote
Elrond: ‘But Isildur would not listen to our counsel [to destroy the Ring after having seized it from Sauron at the Battle of the Last Alliance].
“ ‘This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,” he said; and therefore whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it. But soon he was betrayed by it to his death; and so it is named in the North Isildur’s Bane. Yet death maybe was better than what else might have befallen him.’
...’From the ruin of the Gladden Fields, where Isildur perished, three men only ever came back over the mountains after long wandering. One of these was Ohtar, the esquire of Isildur, who bore the shards of the sword of Elendil; and he brought them to Valandil, the heir to Isildur, who being but a child had remained here in Rivendell.’

Council of Elrond : Fellowship of the Ring


Isildur appears briefly in the Silmarillion. He boldly rescues the White Tree from burning by Sauron worshippers in Numenor, and is badly wounded in the process. There is a brief description of the Gladded Fields episode, in which we hear that he was the “heedless and set no guard” (and so was ambushed by the orcs partly through his own arrogance or incompetence).

The other image of Isildur at the Gladden Fields that many of us have, no doubt, is the one from Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring movie. Isildur is played by a magnificently shifty-looking Harry Sinclair. The prologue to the movie has a Gladden Fields scene in which Isildur dons the Ring immediately when we see his force come under attack, and attempts to make his escape into the water. The implication is clearly that he is deserting his command, , and perhaps that this ignoble action is something to do with the corrupting force of the Ring. One can of course argue whether or not New Line got this right, and to do that in detail is not my intention in this thread - I wanted to pick it out as a feasible interpretation of the events as recounted in LOTR: and a powerful image we might have in mind when approaching this story.

So, what more do we get in Unfinished Tales? An outline of the story is as follows:

After the fall of Sauron, Isildur goes to Gondor, and spends a year restoring order. He then wants to go to Rivendell to see his wife and youngest son, and “he had moreover an urgent need for the counsel of Elrond.” (we don’t find out what that is about, though later events in the story would be consistent with Isildur wanting advice about the Ring.) In any case it’s on his way back to the Northern Kingdom. His party includes his three sons, Elendur, Aratan and Ciryon, in a force of 200. At sunset on the 30th day of their march they see Orcs moving down from the forest slopes.
(At this point C Tolkien notes that what follows will differ from the account of the Gladden Fields given in “Of the Rings of Power” a chapter of the Silmarillion. In the Silmarillion version, Orcs are lying in wait for Isildur and are able to surprise his camp, because “he was heedless and set no guard, deeming that all his foes were overthrown.”)
Isildur has time to arrange a battle formation called a “thangail” - a shield wall which could, if needed bend back on itself to form a closed ring. A shadow of foreboding falls upon Isildur - he discusses the situation with Elendur, and commands Ohtar, his squire, to leave the force in order to save the shards of Narsil from capture.
The Orcs get the worst of their initial attack on Isildur’s shield wall. Isildur orders a resumption of the march, moving down to flatter ground which will deny the orcs the advantage of a downhill charge.
The orcs, however, are not a mere bandit force. Their presence,and their untypically orcish levels of enthusiasm for a fight are explained in detail (partly in a long authorial footnote). They are a unit of Sauron’s, placed before the Battle of the Last Alliance, to prevent Alliance troops crossing the mountains. But they had felt hopelessly outmatched by the large bodies of Alliance troops which had gone that way to the Battle, and had remained concealed. Probably they had not learned of Sauron’s defeat, and believed that they were attacking remnants of a defeated and retreating Allied army. They may also have been unknowingly influenced by the Ring - only recently cut from Sauron and still “heavy with his evil will, and seeking all means to return to its lord.”
As the orcs surround Isildur’s force, but remain out of “the dreaded steel-bows of Numenor”,
Elendur and Isildur discuss the situation. Elendur wonders whether Isildur could use the Ring to command the orcs. He says he cannot:


Quote
I dread the pain of touching it. And I have not yet found the strength to bend it to my will. It needs one greater than I now know myself to be. My pride is fallen. It should go to the Keepers of the Three


The orcs then attack ferociously, heedless of heavy losses. The situation begins to look hopeless
Elendur pleads with Isildur as follows:


Quote
‘My King,’ said Elendur, ‘Ciryon is dead and Aratan is dying. Your last counsellor must advise, nay command you, as you commanded Ohtar. Go! Take your burden and at all costs bring it to the Keepers: even at the cost of abandoning your men and me!’


That is, the incident in which Narsil is evacuated is used as a precedent for evacuating the far deadlier and more precious Ring.

Isildur reluctantly agrees, puts on the Ring, turns invisible and slips off. The story notes that Elendur commanded the final stand in which he and all save one young esquire (“stunned and buried under fallen men”) perish. We now follow Isildur’s escape attempt. Reaching the River, he strips off his armour and tries to swim across, But the current is too strong until he is swept into the marshy terrain of the Gladden Fields. By this time, he realises that the Ring has fallen from his finger. He feels first a wave of crushing despair, but then that “a great burden had been taken away”. But as he heaves himself out of the water he is shot by orcs and falls back into the marshes. “So passed the first victim of the malice of the masterless Ring”.

There then follows a note on “The sources of the legend of Isildur’s death”. This details how the story was reconstructed from:
The testimony of Ohtar and his companion (who completed their mission to bring Narsil to Rivendell).

Estelmo, esquire to Elendur, who was the sole survivor left for dead. He had overheard Elendur’s discussions with Isildur including the reason for Isildur’s departure.

Rescuers - woodsmen and elves - who arrived too late to save Elendur’s force, but arrived in time to scatter the orcs.

Forensic evidence and inference: Isildur’s heavy armour was found on the east bank - but not his other effects, including a sealed wallet of emergency rations. It could be deduced that he did not make it to the west bank, else he should have got away to Moria or Lorien for help.

Lastly, after the War of the Ring, a hidden cabinet is found in Orthanc, in which Saruman had been keeping a chain (assumed to be the one on which Isildur kept the Ring around his neck) and the Elendilmir - a white star of Elvish crystal upon a fillet of mithril; the “crown” of the North Kingdom, worn by Isildur when he fell. These things, it was assumed, could not have been recovered if Isildur had drowned in deep water - therefore he must have died in the shallows. But if Saruman had also found Isildur’s bones, it is not clear what he did with them.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 8:58am

Post #3 of 155 (2934 views)
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Discussion starter 1 - “But this is running against a crucial point in The Lord of the Rings...” [In reply to] Can't Post

The title of this post comes from Prof Shippey’s complaint about this story:


Quote
...one can see Tolkien reconsidering Isildur. His use of the ominous word ‘precious’ in The Fellowship of the Ring had been quite enough to suggest that he was already becoming ‘addicted’, that his death was in a way a mercy. In the latter narrative, though, Isildur uses the Ring painfully and reluctantly, with much excuse and apology. The Ring seems to find no answer in him to its call. But this is running against a crucial point in The Lord of the Rings, namely that no one can be trusted, not even the Keepers of the Three’. Tolkien, no doubt, would have seen this point and dealt with is somehow if he had published a full account. Still, one can see him becoming more loath to accept the evil in the good; and while this is charitable, it does not make for powerful story.”

Tom Shippey - The Road to Middle-earth, Ch7: Visions and revisions


Hmmm. I can see how that sits with Elrond’s comments:


Quote
Elrond: ‘But Isildur would not listen to our counsel [to destroy the Ring after having seized it from Sauron at the Battle of the Last Alliance].
“ ‘This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,” he said; and therefore whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it. But soon he was betrayed by it to his death; and so it is named in the North Isildur’s Bane. Yet death maybe was better than what else might have befallen him.

Council of Elrond : Fellowship of the Ring
(my italics)


Certainly Isildur does seem rather different in this Unfinished treatment. Is it what you'd expect from the rest of the works?

Do you agree or disagree with Prof Shippey’s thought that a more noble, Ring-resistant Isildur should not be allowed? That much though we might like him, his task in the plot is to demonstrate how the Ring can corrupt even the most strong and noble?

Or, to the contrary, do you find that this more noble Isildur does no violence to the “cannon” (that is, the set of events already set up in Tolkien’s published writing, and with some implication that he didn’t ought to go changing that now)? For example, one possible position would be that we already know that resistance to the Ring is possible (Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Faramir). One could argue that there’s no problem here - Isildur would fall eventually, but in the meantime the Ring has decided to dump him for a new host - either Isildur’s proving disappointingly hard to corrupt, or the Ring sees a better opportunity in one of the attacking orcs, or the Ring is aware that Isildur now plans to take it to its greatest enemies, and is acting to prevent this. Does that retain all the creepiness and nastiness that we need for Isildur to have his “awful warning” function in LOTR?
Or, of course one could have numerous other theories, according to one’s ideas about the Ring’s effect and powers - discussing different theories is certainly one way this discussion might go!

And again, is there a problem of “cannon” at all - I noted parenthetically that there’s the assumption in the idea of “cannon” that some things are set now. But that’s debatable too - if Tolkien wants to change things, can he do so? He did, for example, make significant changes to the Riddles in the Dark section in the Second Edition of The Hobbit, because the First Edition text was incompatible with the new, nastier and more powerful properties he’d given the Ring when writing LOTR.

Prof Shippey’s “Tolkien, no doubt, would have seen this point [that he’s ‘running against a crucial point in The Lord of the Rings’] and dealt with is somehow...” is presumably speculation - we probably can’t settle how far towards completion Tolkien felt he had got (if anyone does have information, please say!). But I’d like to ask - do you personally agree with Shippey, or, conversely do you feel the nobler Isildur fits well, and so there was no problem to solve?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 9:01am

Post #4 of 155 (2870 views)
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Discussion starter 2 - The "clash between 'literary' technique, and … elaborating in detail" [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
There is of course a clash between 'literary' technique, and the fascination of elaborating in detail an imaginary mythical Age.
(Tolkien, letter 144, to Mrs Naomi Mitchison, who was working as a proof reader for LOTR in 1954, and had asked a number of interesting questions about the text)


Do you feel this clash in the story, and do you think it is satifactarily resolved? Prof. Tom Shippey for example, sees late Tolkien doing too much elaboration: perhaps as displacement activity from finally publishing the Silmarillion, a task which (Shippey thinks) might have been becoming impossible for Tolkien to complete (Prof. Shippey 's comments are in The Road to Middle-earth, Ch7: Visions and revisions).

Do you agree? Too Much detail?: does it Gladden, is it a Disaster, or can you Field this criticism?

Especially if you include the footnotes, the story might be felt to include a very large amount of detail that we don’t strictly need. Examples include the long notes about Isildur’s options for battle formations; or what the orcs were doing and why they showed so much espirit de corps; or the nature of iron rations of the period.

Does this kind of thing add or detract from the tale, as you read it?

What do you make of the “Sources” section - is it interesting to pick over the evidence for the story as if it were real history? Or would you be just as happy with Tolkien having used his Omniscient Narrator power (since we know really that this is fiction - he made the whole thing up)?

Entangled with this, I suppose, is speculation (or information, if anyone has any) on what those notes etc. were for: did JRRT propose to publish the story pretty much in the form we have it now (with the notes, like a sort of mini-appendix)? Or were they notes to himself which he intended either to work into the story itself, or to leave unpublished?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


demnation
Rohan

Feb 16 2014, 9:34am

Post #5 of 155 (2843 views)
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The details are unnecessary but interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm totally fascinated by the "steel bows," for example. How where they made? What was their precise function? Seriously, how would such a thing work? But we get no answers. All the details about battle formations shows Tolkien in a different state of mind than usual. Such details are quite rare elsewhere in his work, as far as I can recall. I wonder if his interests where consumed by books on military tactics and the like when he wrote this story? Anyway, such details make this piece sound like less of a story and more like a lesson taught at an Elven military college about "the folly of Men."

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." Gandalf, "The Last Debate."


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 10:21am

Post #6 of 155 (2843 views)
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Tolkien the wargamer [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting point about the fixation on military detail, Demnation. In a while this read-through will get us to the discussion of the Fords of Isen which even more has a "Staff College Exercise" element to it.

But I think there was always an element of this in Tolkien. Think of the Battle of Five Armies in The Hobbit - considerable effort goes into how the allies use the terrain to funnel the goblins into a confined space where they can't use their superior numbers (and are in a killing ground for the allied archers). But then there's a reverse when the goblins sensibly outflank the position, only for that outflanking to be defeated by the intervention of Thorin. I imagine that some considerable time was spent with a map and/or moving ink pots and pens around on the desk until Tolkien worked out who was where and what they were doing, and how that would accord with a reasonable military plan.

Another example is the Siege of Minas Tirith in LOTR: Tolkien is careful to set the Rohirrim the perfectly sensible obstacle that Sauron's forces have fortified the road against them, a problem they overcome thanks to the unexpected aid of Ghan-buri-ghan. Then he comments on the mistake the Witch King's forces have made in breaking down rather than defending the Out Walls around the Pellenor Fields: this might let their siege engines through (and satisfy the general Orcish enthusiasms for destruction), but it means that the Riders can sweep through.

I think a difference, though is that the military geekiness is firmly in the service of narrative in my examples - in both Battle of the Five Armies and the Relief of Minas Tirith it allows the battles to ebb and flow in an exciting but feasible way, whilst not being allowed to sap the pace of the story.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Tulkurin
Registered User

Feb 16 2014, 11:26am

Post #7 of 155 (2864 views)
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tough call [In reply to] Can't Post

The ring is precious, but I think it's an eye of the beholder type. Is it precious to Isildur because out of love he took the ring for his father, brother, and all of Numenor? Did the ring try to leave because he did take the ring out of love and memory? The ring must have hated, if that's what it can be called, being possessed by Isildur just for what his bloodline represents and what it preserved out of Numenor and the ancient west.
Also, Isildur was one of the most noble faithful of Numenor. So I agree with that line of thinking and have to disagree with Shippey.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 11:38am

Post #8 of 155 (2864 views)
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That's a meaning for 'Precious' I'd certainly not considered! [In reply to] Can't Post

Bravo Tulkurin (and welcome to the Reading Room!). Yes, it could be 'Precious' as in his treasured memento in some recompense for his losses, not 'Precious' in the creepy, fetishistic Gollum sense, and therefore the P-word to send a shiver down a Tolkien-fan's spine!

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Tulkurin
Registered User

Feb 16 2014, 12:41pm

Post #9 of 155 (2826 views)
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good way to put it [In reply to] Can't Post

It's also interesting to note that the Ring caused a similiar type of pain to Isildur as the Silmarils did to Maglor and Maedhros. Isildur, being who he was and his deeds, was scorched by claiming something so evil and wretched. Maglor and Maedhros, being who they were and their deeds, were scorched from claimnig something so pure and good.. I think a connection can be made in some sort that nobility ran deep in Isildur from the reaction he got from touching the ring.


(This post was edited by Tulkurin on Feb 16 2014, 12:43pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 1:56pm

Post #10 of 155 (2813 views)
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Discussion starter 3 - to what extent do we see the Ring as Actor here? [In reply to] Can't Post

The One Ring might well be Tolkien's most brilliant literary creation. It does seem to exist in the story as a sentient or semi-sentient character, rather than a simple-minded tool:


Quote

"A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it... It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The Ring left him.

Gandalf, Shadow of the Past, LOTR


But is it never clear (to me at least) how much will and knowledge and intelligence (if you will) the Ring has.

What do we make of it here? Tolkien is trying the idea that the Ring is affecting the attacking orcs. And also note the footnote about the orcs' motivations:


Quote
...though it was swiftly cooling it was still heavy with his evil will, and seeking all means to return to its lord.


(How would that work, by the way - wouldn't an orc capturing the Ring promptly want to keep it and become Lord Of The Orcs? Or is Essence de Sauron still permeating it enough that the orc would try to return it?)

Then again, in this story, Isildur says to Elendur:

Quote
The vengeance of Sauron lives on, though he may be dead.


Does he mean vengeance literally - the Ring wishes to harm Isildur and his folk in revenge for their part in Sauron's downfall?

Related to this, I'd like to highlight a point by Tulkurin, which might otherwise get lost in Discussion starter thread 1:


Quote
Did the ring try to leave because he did take the ring out of love and memory? The ring must have hated, if that's what it can be called, being possessed by Isildur just for what his bloodline represents and what it preserved out of Numenor and the ancient west.

Tulkurin http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=716056#716056


Lastly, does the Ring have any inkling that it is being taken to Rivendell, by an Isildur who is now at least toying with the idea that he should have destroyed it. At all costs, a sentient Ring would want to stay away from Rivendell (unless it fancied it could corrupt Elrond!)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


squire
Half-elven


Feb 16 2014, 4:36pm

Post #11 of 155 (2851 views)
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Precious is as precious does [In reply to] Can't Post

You make a fine distinction, but I think that's just Tolkien's point. With the Ring, there are all kinds of reasons why one may say it isn't evil because it wasn't taken or used with evil intention. But sooner or later - "'later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him.’" (LotR I.2, Gandalf speaking)

So I agree with you that Isildur is using precious in a more or less 'innocent' way, but the word is Tolkien's clever clue that anything on which one sets a price (the original meaning of precious) has an unhealthy hold on one.

I think the Ring 'left' Isildur for the simple reason that he was not Sauron and had no right to the Ring. By leaving him, the Ring made him visible to his enemies and helped destroy him. It's intriguing to think of the Ring as sentient but like NoWizardMe I've never really understood how far to take the conceit. I certainly can't see the Ring 'knowing' it's being taken to Rivendell, for instance, or 'plotting' to corrupt the leaders of the Wise.

Shippey's main point is really about Tolkien's weakness for rationalizing and codifying his stories after they were written, to fit more closely to what we now call 'canon' (a concept better applied to serials churned out by writing teams, I think, rather than to Tolkien). As I understand him, Shippey tends to see such post-LotR rewrites as these Third Age selections from Unfinished Tales as a triumph of world-building over literary art.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd & 4th TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion and NOW the 1st BotR Discussion too! and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


squire
Half-elven


Feb 16 2014, 4:41pm

Post #12 of 155 (2879 views)
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Nice point about the film's interpretation [In reply to] Can't Post

I like that: that the filmmakers were working from the LotR's suggestions regarding Isildur's corruption by the Ring, rather than the UT whitewash!

Of course, the scene is flattened by the fact that Isildur is shown as instantaneously creepy when he first keeps the Ring in Mt. Doom. If we had seen the noble Isildur and his speech about weregild (or something similar that the audience could understand) turn into the cad who flees from battle to protect himself, I think they would have been closer to Tolkien's thoughts when he first wrote LotR.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd & 4th TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion and NOW the 1st BotR Discussion too! and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 16 2014, 5:59pm

Post #13 of 155 (2795 views)
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"But how fast does we do it, Precious?" [In reply to] Can't Post

Absolutely: no-one should be able to take the Ring without extreme peril. I think that is Shippey's point: if, post this UT story, it is not now perilous to take the Ring, then why doesn't Gandalf simply ask Bilbo to give it to him, not Frodo? Gandalf is, after all an accomplished traveller and adventurer, and veteran of a foray into Dol Gildur. Surely he can get it off to Mt. Doom without all this nerve-fraying relying upon hobbits.

If you like Gandalf can even fly the Ring to Mordor by....

...balrog!! (it's the last remaining plot twist in the sad wreckage of a once great story Smile )


So the Ring must be an especial danger to the Wise and Powerful. And, a Wise and Powerful Ringbearer, however noble his or her intentions must be an unacceptable risk to everyone else. Otherwise, there's a big hole in the plot of LOTR.

However, I think there's also an idea in LOTR that one's purpose in taking up and keeping the Ring has an outcome on one's fate - for example, see this exchange between Frodo and Gandalf:

Quote
"'I must keep the Ring and guard it, at least for the present, whatever it may do to me.'
'Whatever it may do, it will be slow, slow to evil if you keep it with that purpose,' said Gandalf."


As we see, even Frodo is overwhelmed by it in the end, and the Ring is only destroyed thanks to intervention by Gollum. But his corruption is slower than Gollum's own - which of course starts with a murder to get the Ring.

If this is so, is Prof Shippey confusing final destination with rate of travel? That is, one year into his Ringbearer-ship, is Isildur assuredly being devoured by the dark power, but more slowly than we might have imagined from LOTR?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Feb 16 2014, 6:00pm)


Brethil
Half-elven


Feb 16 2014, 8:00pm

Post #14 of 155 (2828 views)
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Paralleling Isildur and Bilbo [In reply to] Can't Post


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The title of this post comes from Prof Shippey’s complaint about this story:

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...one can see Tolkien reconsidering Isildur. His use of the ominous word ‘precious’ in The Fellowship of the Ring had been quite enough to suggest that he was already becoming ‘addicted’, that his death was in a way a mercy. In the latter narrative, though, Isildur uses the Ring painfully and reluctantly, with much excuse and apology. The Ring seems to find no answer in him to its call. But this is running against a crucial point in The Lord of the Rings, namely that no one can be trusted, not even the Keepers of the Three’. Tolkien, no doubt, would have seen this point and dealt with is somehow if he had published a full account. Still, one can see him becoming more loath to accept the evil in the good; and while this is charitable, it does not make for powerful story.”

Tom Shippey - The Road to Middle-earth, Ch7: Visions and revisions


Hmmm. I can see how that sits with Elrond’s comments:


Quote
Elrond: ‘But Isildur would not listen to our counsel [to destroy the Ring after having seized it from Sauron at the Battle of the Last Alliance].
“ ‘This I will have as weregild for my father, and my brother,” he said; and therefore whether we would or no, he took it to treasure it. But soon he was betrayed by it to his death; and so it is named in the North Isildur’s Bane. Yet death maybe was better than what else might have befallen him.

Council of Elrond : Fellowship of the Ring
(my italics)


Certainly Isildur does seem rather different in this Unfinished treatment. Is it what you'd expect from the rest of the works?
Do you agree or disagree with Prof Shippey’s thought that a more noble, Ring-resistant Isildur should not be allowed? That much though we might like him, his task in the plot is to demonstrate how the Ring can corrupt even the most strong and noble?


Excellent points to bring up Furincurunir. I think we can discuss the corruption aspect if we parallel Isildur to Bilbo.

In the exposition of Letter #131 JRRT briefly sums up Isuldur's the keeping of the Ring with the weregild idea. I find it perfectly compatible with Bilbo's later 'birthday-present' idea: delusion of legitimacy in the eye of the beholder. The first sign of the Ring at work, I think, and though not entirely inappropriate as 'weregild' (if circumstances were different and it was not a focus of the Enemy's life force) the parallels to me seem to imply an external force acting on the characters. This in tandem with the repeated 'precious' valuation. This comes I think from the Ring itself: the feeling that it inspires in all of those who touch it (probably Sauron himself...I can hear him saying it too.) So between self-delusion and the 'precious' whispers I think that the influence of the Ring is clearly present in literary depiction of both Isildur and Bilbo.

Isildur and Bilbo also both do reject the Ring, though Bilbo does it with more decision (but with Gandalf at hand, and his divine assistance in the mix). Isildur had finally, fatally made up his mind, in the duress of battle and perhaps with the deep and insightful foreknowledge prior to death (a hallmark of epiphany: we have seen this before in JRRT's writings, ie: Huor speaking to Turgon comes immediately to mind) to hand the Ring to other and perhaps more Wise keepers: I do feel that is part of his seeking the counsel of Elrond. I think it is written with open-ended interpretation in UT as reflecting Isildur's own undecided mind; if we are getting the information from 'sources' and not the omniscient narrator then his deepest thoughts would thus remain unrevealed (so my feeling is that Narrative Voice is not in use there.) So Isildur is not morally in the clear just yet I think: afraid and cowed by the Ring, but not having cast it aside yet.

As for the point of the Keeper's of the Three not being reliable, I would point out that in JRRT's world folks don't always have all the info. Having tried to dominate and use the Ring, and having failed and finally accepted that failure, Isildur may have reached a personal epiphany of deciding that the Firstborn were where he must seek aid. I feel that from his POV the working, 'nuts and bolts' knowledge of how the Ring could overwhelm even the Wise would be unknown. WE know it, from Gandalf's own knowledge and resultant and necessary exposition in FOTR. I do not think that Isildur would have any knowledge of it - so for me, I don't see an issue requiring resolution. Instead it is the complex tapestry of mixed races, mixed knowledge.

And if Bilbo managed to walk entirely away from the Ring, from a literary POV I don't see that Isildur could not have made *some* (if not entirely effectual) move to do so on his own. Of course, the Gladden Fields takes away the proper ending doesn't it? He leaves it open really, because Isildur barely had the Ring for two years. Would he have made it to Imladris with the same intent? There is no guarantee of this. I think the last force of will that Isildur had to drive him to don the Ring, leave his sons and his men was a rather adrenaline-fueled, facing-death choice. Had he reached the bank with the Ring, and in the quiet time there, with no one at hand, would his resolve have held? In a way, the fact that the Ring left him in the water is potential proof that it may have, but the question then is who did the Ring fear most, as you point out? If we assign the Ring some agency (and I do, for my part) then it had sensed it has a closed road and that hiding in the reeds was better than a fate tied with Elves: in which case, was the real fear a strong Isildur or the face at the end of the road: Elrond, who is known to the Ring?
So we do not have to accept a noble, uncorrupted Isildur to accept that the Ring may have left him: the mere proximity of hated Elvendom may have been enough to cause the Ring to take its chances elsewhere. Still leaves Isildur in that twilight sort of moral state.

It also leaves the door open for Aragorn to be able to, as the Heir, make a choice. A moral choice that determines his innate fitness for the Kingship and the repair of Middle-earth. If Isildur is 100% morally flawed, it makes Aragorn merely some sort of odd fluke, I think. If Isldur has the latent nobility of the best of Men, yet was seen to succumb for a time to temptation, then instead we have the inheritance of Aragorn to be much more complex in his time, and to represent a blooming of the old ways and a return to a time before corruption by rising through free will above it.

In all, I think that JRRT laid perfectly reasonable foundations with Bilbo, to give Isildur some ethical wiggle room, in his short tenure of the Ring, to *attempt* to be free of it. As it both gives power and consumes according to one's stature, it also makes sense to me that Isildur would not fare quite as well as Bilbo. So, in short (TOO LATE!) I will come down on the side of UT Isildur working for me, and having no issues with the presentation!


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room April, 2014. *The Call for Submissions is up*!





(This post was edited by Brethil on Feb 16 2014, 8:01pm)


Brethil
Half-elven


Feb 16 2014, 8:18pm

Post #15 of 155 (2784 views)
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Details, details! [In reply to] Can't Post


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There is of course a clash between 'literary' technique, and the fascination of elaborating in detail an imaginary mythical Age.
(Tolkien, letter 144, to Mrs Naomi Mitchison, who was working as a proof reader for LOTR in 1954, and had asked a number of interesting questions about the text)


Do you feel this clash in the story, and do you think it is satifactarily resolved? Prof. Tom Shippey for example, sees late Tolkien doing too much elaboration: perhaps as displacement activity from finally publishing the Silmarillion, a task which (Shippey thinks) might have been becoming impossible for Tolkien to complete (Prof. Shippey 's comments are in The Road to Middle-earth, Ch7: Visions and revisions).

Do you agree? Too Much detail?: does it Gladden, is it a Disaster, or can you Field this criticism?
Professor Shippey makes a very interesting point there, and I do agree with it on this reading. Granted it depends on us assigning motive on part of JRRT, but knowing how intensely complicated the Sil had become and how he did seem to despair of it coming to paper, that may be an excellent point for the use of the energy and cultural detailing that he adds in this section.
For my part, I like the detailing, but then I am reading these texts as supplemental texts. Maybe that is an inherent strength to the writings in that they are seen as support for the main literature?

Especially if you include the footnotes, the story might be felt to include a very large amount of detail that we don’t strictly need. Examples include the long notes about Isildur’s options for battle formations; or what the orcs were doing and why they showed so much espirit de corps; or the nature of iron rations of the period.
Does this kind of thing add or detract from the tale, as you read it?


I like a lot of the detailing, particularly the bit about the Gondorian maneuvers. In other places JRRT compares Aragorn's renewal of Gondor as a revival of a Holy Roman Empire. Here I love his description of their maneuvers, named in Elvish but describing the Roman Phalanx and the Wedge formations. It gives that ancient and antique (to our world) flavor to the Numenoreans I think while tying it in to the Real World historical records. He goes back in our time to use an antique set of maneuvers which would have been learned by the ancient Romans perhaps from the word-of-mouth passed down through the ages. Very neat twist on the historical-fantasy notion I think.



What do you make of the “Sources” section - is it interesting to pick over the evidence for the story as if it were real history? Or would you be just as happy with Tolkien having used his Omniscient Narrator power (since we know really that this is fiction - he made the whole thing up)?

I like, as the years progress to the tales of Men, for there to be 'sources' and less 'omniscience'. It allows the tales to blend more with the proto-histories that he intended on tying them up with I think, and it feels more believable too me - as even our recent history of an event as recent as the Civil War here in America has mysteries and lacks crucial details in the telling. A falling into mystery and unanswered questions as life spans shorten and ever-forgetful Men assume the world.
I find the Omniscient tone more believable when dealing with the Firstborn and the Dwarves - they live longer and forget less!



Entangled with this, I suppose, is speculation (or information, if anyone has any) on what those notes etc. were for: did JRRT propose to publish the story pretty much in the form we have it now (with the notes, like a sort of mini-appendix)? Or were they notes to himself which he intended either to work into the story itself, or to leave unpublished?

This I don't know enough about to say! I'm looking forward to what others think on this point. Smile


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room April, 2014. *The Call for Submissions is up*!





(This post was edited by Brethil on Feb 16 2014, 8:22pm)


Brethil
Half-elven


Feb 16 2014, 8:32pm

Post #16 of 155 (2785 views)
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Found: One Gold Ring... [In reply to] Can't Post


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The One Ring might well be Tolkien's most brilliant literary creation. It does seem to exist in the story as a sentient or semi-sentient character, rather than a simple-minded tool:


Quote
"A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it... It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The Ring left him.

Gandalf, Shadow of the Past, LOTR

But is it never clear (to me at least) how much will and knowledge and intelligence (if you will) the Ring has.
What do we make of it here? Tolkien is trying the idea that the Ring is affecting the attacking orcs. And also note the footnote about the orcs' motivations:


Quote
...though it was swiftly cooling it was still heavy with his evil will, and seeking all means to return to its lord.


(How would that work, by the way - wouldn't an orc capturing the Ring promptly want to keep it and become Lord Of The Orcs? Or is Essence de Sauron still permeating it enough that the orc would try to return it?)

I think here all Sauron needs is for someone, ANYONE, to take the Ring and be consumed by it: by which they will stand out, gets Sauron's attention (for good or ill) and thus be devoured by him and the Ring reclaimed. The arrogance of an Orc, suddenly a Ringlord, cannot harm Sauron in the least: but it would make him stand out like a neon sign saying *I'M RIGHT HERE*!!!! to Sauron. (Side Note: I think the filmmakers used this idea with Faramir: in Galadriel's voiceover when she mentions how close it is to achieving its goal if Faramir took the Ring: he cannot defeat Sauron but the Ring's location would suddenly be utterly and completely known.)


Then again, in this story, Isildur says to Elendur:

Quote
The vengeance of Sauron lives on, though he may be dead.

Does he mean vengeance literally - the Ring wishes to harm Isildur and his folk in revenge for their part in Sauron's downfall?
Excellent point, as yes, I think it does. Sauron ever wished to be revenged upon Numenor both before and then after the Fall.


Related to this, I'd like to highlight a point by Tulkurin, which might otherwise get lost in Discussion starter thread 1:

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Did the ring try to leave because he did take the ring out of love and memory? The ring must have hated, if that's what it can be called, being possessed by Isildur just for what his bloodline represents and what it preserved out of Numenor and the ancient west.

Tulkurin
http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=716056#716056


Lastly, does the Ring have any inkling that it is being taken to Rivendell, by an Isildur who is now at least toying with the idea that he should have destroyed it. At all costs, a sentient Ring would want to stay away from Rivendell (unless it fancied it could corrupt Elrond!)


Excellent point by Tulkurin!!!! As I posted, I think that JRRT wanted this weregild/love and memory idea to be the POV of Isildur (and thus legitimate) but it strikes me as the same idea of Bilbo convincing himself of his 'birthday-present' from Gollum.

I don't think it had any hope of Elrond. I think it still hates the entire region of Eregion and would be loathe to go there, with Sauron's memories of his defeats in the region. A bitter part of the map!


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room April, 2014. *The Call for Submissions is up*!





elaen32
Gondor


Feb 16 2014, 9:06pm

Post #17 of 155 (2768 views)
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As usual..... [In reply to] Can't Post

Brethil has expressed it better than I can, but I will have a goSmile I have always had a problem in reconciling Isildur, son of Elendil, a leader of the Faithful Numenoreans, who brought the White Tree to Middle-earth, who cut the Ring from Sauron's hand, with wicked tricksy Isildur, who refuses to contemplate destroying the Ring and succumbs to its evil. The Ring was obviously corrupting him to stop its destruction and, as Brethil said, in any other circumstances, it would not have been unreasonable to keep such a "spoil of war" as "weregild". In this case, the evil of the Ring is working on Isildur's "good" side- his love for his father and brother, as well as his vengeful "bad side". I do not feel that the UT story contradicts LOTR's assertion that nobody is safe from the Ring- Isildur, in UT is shown as fearing what would happen if he used the Ring, in the same way that Gandalf and Galadriel are depicted in LOTR. I don't think that one can necessarily compare Isildur and Aragorn in respect to their responses to the Ring. Isildur encounters and takes it "still hot from Sauron's hand", whilst experiencing a maelstrom of emotions from the battle and the loss of his father and brother. He is bound to have a more immediate and personal reaction to the Ring in these circumstances imo. Aragorn, however, encounters the Ring after it has been lying dormant for 3000 years and does not have such a personal relationship with it. Although Sauron is again active, he does not yet have the Ring and this is a different Sauron from the one that Isildur et al confronted. He has learnt fear and experienced bitter defeat. I wonder if Sauron/Ring had been directly responsible for Arathorn's death, whether Aragorn might have reacted differently?
With regards to the sentience of the Ring, I have to admit, this is something on which I cannot make up my mind. There is, imo a degree of sentience, but not consciousness per se. I see it reacting to its environment and circumstances in the same sort of way that a flowering plant, or tree, or even a simple animal species might do in order to ensure its survival. Far from being an inert lump of metal, but also far from being a conscious, thinking, scheming being. I like the idea that the Ring senses some change in Isildur's attitude to it and therefore leaves him. I don't think it has to be as strong as a conscious thought as "this guy is going to give me up to the Elves- and that can only mean bad news", but more an awareness of change of sentiment.
All in all, I like the UT story- I think it relates well to the other "canon" from the Silmarillion regarding Isildur and his people. I find it more satisfactory than just seeing Isildur, after all that he has achieved and endured, turning out to be weak and corrupted in a 2 dimensional fashion. Unfortunately, the movies did not help with this latter impression, in the way they portrayed Isildur as a coward and pretty much a slimeball!


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in April. Happy writing!



Dame Ioreth
Tol Eressea


Feb 16 2014, 10:33pm

Post #18 of 155 (2789 views)
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Not sentient maybe but "magnetic" [In reply to] Can't Post

as in having an affinity for one pole (attraction) but not the other pole. I saw the Ring as having an affinity for anyone who would use it and thus make it visible and also an affinity for those like its maker. Gandalf seemed to understand without knowing making the importance of "keep it secret, keep it safe" a pivotal skirmish in the beginning of this war. If not in use, it is invisible and the Ring loses and Sauron loses.

But once in use, what does it do to the user? It's affinity is for the evil that created it. It is drawn towards evil. Those that wear it for any time find themselves being used by that evil. I've often wondered if there were other "powers" that the Ring gave to the wearer besides becoming invisible. In the movies, there are scenes that suggest that it connected the wearer with the mind of Sauron, something not even Gandalf wanted to attempt. What is the "power" that it seems to promise that entices certain characters to attempt to control the ring? Clearly, it's not the same power that Sauron had while wearing it. Is it the enticing thought that wearing something made to be all powerful would make one's self all powerful? Is this a instance of the mere promise of power corrupting the bearer?

It was also supposed to control the Nine and the Three and the Seven, but how? We see very little about what that actually meant; how, for example, the One controlled the Elven Three and their bearers at the time Sauron had the One. Is this then a case of the story being as powerful as the actual power being wielded? It is the One therefore the story is that it controls all the others, therefore it is all powerful. The legend itself is powerful. But what in real terms did that actually mean?

I think I just posted more questions than answers... Blush

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings







(This post was edited by Dame Ioreth on Feb 16 2014, 10:34pm)


KingTurgon
Rohan


Feb 17 2014, 12:32am

Post #19 of 155 (2781 views)
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I am going to jump in [In reply to] Can't Post

I recently read this story, and I really enjoyed what Tolkien wrote about Elendur, Isildur's eldest son and heir to the throne of Arnor. I thought the interaction between him and Isildur showed a father-son dynamic we really don't see much of in The Lord of the Rings - one can argue Boromir and Denethor, perhaps, but I don't because Isildur, while becoming corrupted, was not yet at the point Denethor was at. Plus, Isildur was not completely attached to Elendur the way Denethor was to Boromir - as seen when he accepted Elendur's advice to flee.

I think Elendur would have made a wise king, wiser than Isildur. I was curious to hear everyone's thoughts on their relationship, because it really drew me into the story (even though it was quite short). For me, this makes me think that had Elendur survived, perhaps Arnor would not have been weakened enough for the Witch-King to destroy it. Any thoughts on the Isildur/Elendur dynamic, and more importantly, on Elendur himself?


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 17 2014, 12:18pm

Post #20 of 155 (2736 views)
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megalomania as an anti-theft device, and the Ring as parasite [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think here all Sauron needs is for someone, ANYONE, to take the Ring and be consumed by it: by which they will stand out, gets Sauron's attention (for good or ill) and thus be devoured by him and the Ring reclaimed. The arrogance of an Orc, suddenly a Ringlord, cannot harm Sauron in the least: but it would make him stand out like a neon sign saying *I'M RIGHT HERE*!!!! to Sauron.


Yes, one could certainly argue that- accidentally, or by Sauron's intention - the Ring has a sort of psychological equivalent of one of those gadgets which are supposed to spray dye all over shoplifted clothes!

This post, and elaen32's, has also got me thinking of an analogy of the Ring as parasite. The points of similarity that interest me are:
Many parasites quickly do something to prevent becoming separated from a new host. Often of course it is physical attachment: the Ring, by contrast doesn't stick to you except psychologically; finding some way into manipulating you into believing that you should have it, you must have it, it is mine, I tell you!!
Some parasites modify their host behaviour to their own advantage - for example, making it more likely that the host will come into contact with the next creature needed for the parasite's life cycle. (I shall even cite Lafferty & Shaw (2013) for you, in case anyone is interested (and not, I recommend, eating at the time): doi: 10.1242/​jeb.073668 http://jeb.biologists.org/...nt/216/1/56.abstract

Note that parasites are not doing this stuff by means of sentience - they have in-built behaviours or biochemical processes etc. which make these things happen.

One could easily push this argument too far - I don't claim "Tolkien obviously intends us to view the Ring as a kind of behaviour-modifying parasite". Not at all. But it's fun to have these kinds of thoughts in reaction to the story.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 17 2014, 12:24pm

Post #21 of 155 (2751 views)
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There's that note about Elendur... [In reply to] Can't Post

There's that note about Elendur, saying that he was the grandchild who most resembled Elendil, and who also was believed to resemble Aragorn. Personally I found this annoyingly over-done and over-neat when reading the story (but that is just my reaction, and probably an under-generous one, especially in an Unfinished story!).

I also wondered whether we're supposed to have 'paragon Numenoreans' (Elendil, Elendur, Aragorn) and also a set who are less perfect - more of the traditional action hero with less sound judgement (Isildur, Boromir)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 17 2014, 12:44pm

Post #22 of 155 (2731 views)
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Isildur and Boromir [In reply to] Can't Post

Having missed the edit window, I'm now forced into the indignity of replying to myself.
Smile

Is this “Unfinished Tales” Isildur rather like Boromir? Boromir tries to get the Ring from Frodo, of course, but then seems sincerely repentant. He makes no further attempt to get the Ring (e.g. by pursuing Frodo). Instead he follows to the death Aragorn’s order to try and protect Merry and Pippin. Could Ring-fever be waxing and waning in Isildur too, making this less corrupted Isildur perfectly consistent with what we know from LOTR?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 17 2014, 12:44pm

Post #23 of 155 (2786 views)
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Another crucial point [In reply to] Can't Post

that's included in the UT version is this:
The legend in its full form was not composed until the reign of Elessar in the Fourth Age, when other evidence was discovered.
Tolkien seems to have been thinking here about exactly how the story could be known. This reinforces my general impression that he almost never intends his stories to be understood as coming from his own "omniscient" viewpoint, but rather as legends and histories set down by the (fictional) people who lived through them. A result of this thinking in terms of "sources" is that the source can make a difference to the way the story is told. And in this case, besides extra evidence, there would also be a strong preference, in the reign of Elessar, to see his ancestor Isildur's story in as sympathetic a light as possible.


Quote
...do you find that this more noble Isildur does no violence to the “cannon” (that is, the set of events already set up in Tolkien’s published writing, and with some implication that he didn’t ought to go changing that now)?

I don't actually like the idea of 'canon' at all (or 'cannon' either for that matter - nasty dangerous things, they are! Tongue) There can only be a 'canon' if the stories aren't legends and myths but just the work of a single, omniscient author telling a single, coherent story. But many references in Tolkien's work, including these "sources" for the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, show that Tolkien didn't think of his stories this way, even this late in his career (when pressure from fans seems to have pushed him further into "omniscience" than he had previously intended). If there are multiple "sources" for a story, then there can be multiple "versions" of the story with different details. And exactly how Isildur reacted to the Ring, and how he spent his last moments, seems to be something that would be very open to reinterpretation by later "chroniclers", especially in light of the further evidence that's found.


In Reply To
do you personally agree with Shippey, or, conversely do you feel the nobler Isildur fits well, and so there was no problem to solve?

It makes Isildur more complex, and I think that's actually a good thing that adds more layers to the text of the Lord of the Rings. It seems to me to show just how impossible it is to control the Ring. Even when you think you are behaving nobly, it can be betraying you. I see Isildur's fundamental error to have been the one he made in the Sammath Naur. Once he refused to destroy the Ring, it was bound to destroy him. No amount of nobility and courage was going to redeem him after that. And it not only destroyed him physically, it destroyed his reputation as a noble and courageous leader. It's only after the Ring is finally destroyed that it becomes possible for his reputation to be restored.


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Feb 17 2014, 12:45pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 17 2014, 12:50pm

Post #24 of 155 (2756 views)
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I'm coming to appreciate this UT Isildur more as we discuss [In reply to] Can't Post

Isildur as tragic hero! The Isildur we see in this story is already betrayed by the Ring (or by his hubris in having kept it) before it slips from his finger: his sons and guards dying around him, he's forced for the safety of Middle-earth to appear to be a coward and slink off, abandoning his family and comrades to their fate. And he's well aware that this circumstance is all his fault.

I wonder whether that was Tolkien's intention. If so, it got rather lost for me in the geeky analysis: we don't (in this unfinished version) get enough of the character insight of which Tolkien was more than capable. At least not for me as a reader - I've had to realise the tragedy for myself in discussion with you lot! Wink

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Feb 17 2014, 12:51pm)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 17 2014, 1:09pm

Post #25 of 155 (2732 views)
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Nice idea. [In reply to] Can't Post

You could also say, from the "literary" perspective, that both Boromir and Isildur seem less noble and more corrupted before their deaths, but are rehabilitated after death. I've certainly noticed this in LotR with Boromir - we see him being sulky and impatient on the way to Parth Galen, but after his heroic death he's remembered only as noble and kindly. This is an effect that I think may be at work in the UT version of Isildur too - a different light being shed in retrospect on essentially the same behaviour. But Boromir redeemed himself immediately, by his self-sacrifice in service of the hobbits. The redemption of Isildur had to be achieved by his heir Aragorn, and it's only in Aragorn's reign that the nobility of Isildur finally becomes a part of the legend.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


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